Critical race theory:

So, what is Critical Race Theory (CRT)? Answering this question can be difficult. As Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw has written, “the notion of CRT as a fully unified school of thought remains a fantasy of our critics.”[1]

Nevertheless, CRT founders and practitioners like Crenshaw, Mari Matsuda, Charles Lawrence III, Richard Delgado, Devon Carbado, and others, have offered explicit answers to “What is critical race theory?” (See Words That Wound, pp. 2 – 3,  Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge, pp. 4 – 6, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, pp. 8 – 10, and “Critical What What,” pp. 1607 – 1615.)

The following are their suggested “tenets”—or as I prefer, “commonplaces”—ordered and presented more or less thematically, fleshing out Dr. Crenshaw’s description of CRT as “a way of seeing and thinking about race that denaturalizes racial inequality.” Additionally, the founders’ own words are included verbatim in the footnote for each commonplace.

Continue reading

A Christian Chop Session on Critical Race Theory: Part 2

Prelude: Our Aim

As fears of Critical Race Theory (CRT) spread across the United States—including within US churches—many of us find the common descriptions of CRT unrecognizable. What is CRT, really? Dr. Nathan Luis Cartagena and I, Bradly Mason, have developed this series of dialogs, or “chop sessions,” to answer this and related questions.

Our goal is fourfold: (1) Accurately present CRT, situating it in the movement’s historical context; (2) relate CRT to our shared faith; (3) explore CRT’s impact on our own lives within our own differing social locations; and (4) help other brothers and sisters interact honestly and redemptively in our deeply racialized and stratified culture. ¡Bendiciones en Cristo!

Explanation about Chop Sessions Two and Three

Conjunto: We ended our last post promising to discuss some of our favorite CRT works in the next chop session. But since publishing that post, many have voiced their surprise about our not mentioning Ibram X. Kendi or Robin DiAngelo in a session answering the question “What is CRT?” Because this series es para el pueblo—“for the people”—we’ve decided to change course and use the next two chop sessions to explain why Kendi and DiAngelo did not appear in our first post, and why, apart from those sessions, they’re unlikely to appear in the rest of the series.

This chop session will focus on Kendi. The next one will focus on DiAngelo. Enjoy!

Continue reading

From Patheological: “Can Two Walk Together? More with Bradly Mason on CRT”

Screenshot (46)

In my latest discussion with Dr. Todd Littleton on Patheological, we take a deep dive into the social construction of race thesis, our specific national history of racial construction, and what it means for our understanding of racism today, including systemic and institutional racism, differential racialization, intersectionality, etc. We hope that by understanding the nature of “race” itself, as a social, historical, and political entity, we can find common ground to examine the larger social implications.

Let us know what you think! We’d appreciate any feedback, including critique, to help us cover the topics and questions most on listeners’ minds.

Link to audio: “Can Two Walk Together? More with Bradly Mason on CRT

And if you need to catch up:

Link to Part 1: “The Dangers of Mediating Ideas: A Conversation with Bradly Mason

Link to Part 2: “When the Law Does Not Deliver: A Conversation with Bradly Mason

Follow @AlsoACarpenter

From Patheological: “When the Law Does Not Deliver: A Conversation with Bradly Mason”

Screenshot (45)

I had another great conversation with Todd Littleton over on his podcast, Patheological!

We kicked off with a discussion Derrick Bell, “Serving Two Masters,” and Civil Rights retrenchment, discussed the beginnings and impetus of Critical Race Theory, our blindness to our own social philosophies, the importance of the social construction of race thesis, and even what makes events like George Floyd’s murder decidedly racial. Make sure to catch the whole episode!

Link to both audio and video: “When the Law Does Not Deliver: A Conversation with Bradly Mason

More to come!

Follow @AlsoACarpenter

From Patheological: “The Dangers of Mediating Ideas: A Conversation with Bradly Mason”

Screenshot (43)

I had a great conversation with Todd Littleton over on his podcast, Patheological!

We broached Critical Race Theory, the difficulties surrounding having these discussions in the Church, I believe there was a Robin DiAngelo rant, a friendly critique of Tim Keller and his apologetic method, some salty words about the Western liberal tradition, and more. Have a listen and let me know what you think!

 Link: “The Dangers of Mediating Ideas: A Conversation with Bradly Mason

More to come!

Follow @AlsoACarpenter

A (Relatively) Brief Introduction to Critical Race Theory

post 4 image

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is, at bottom, the radical abolitionist and Civil Rights tradition critically transformed to address a post-Civil Rights legal era rooted in the liberal ideology of “color-blindness” and “equal opportunity,” which have together preserved and legitimated the continuation of racially subordinated circumstances.

1. Racial Reform and Retrenchment: Why?

Just over twenty years following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1965 Voting Rights Acts, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act, the stated goals of these historic legislative packages seemed further and further out of reach. The measurable disparity between Black and White Americans in wealth, income, education, home-ownership, and nearly every other social and economic category had not only proven persistent, but many hard-fought gains appeared to be in retrenchment. Further, with the rise of the “New Right” to national power and prominence in the 1980s, the civil rights philosophy of the majority of Americans had become clear: the work was complete, discrimination was illegal, and equality had been achieved through Brown v Board of Education and the subsequent national Civil Rights Acts. For the legislature and courts to intervene any further, it was commonly presumed, would cause more harm than would the very few remaining vestiges of racism. In fact, whatever racial inequality that remained in the 1980s would soon be understood as simply the natural fall-out of legally equal people-groups acting unequally in an open and equal society. Thus, the vast society-wide social and economic disparities seen throughout the nation were by then rationalized as legitimate, natural, and even just.

How, just twenty years following the passage of the Civil Rights Acts, had America come to such ideological and existential reversals?

Continue reading

Is Critical Race Theory Marxist?

Is Critical Race Theory (CRT) Marxist? I see this claim multiple times per day. On the one hand, there’s a sense in which nearly every modern social theory is working within a loosely “Marxist” sociological tradition; sociology itself is the intellectual legacy of, primarily, Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Émile Durkheim. On the other hand, Marxist social theory is far removed from Marx’s own metaphysical, economic, and political ideology—not to mention far removed from Leninism, Stalinism, or Maoism. Further, and as an added complication to answering this question, CRT scholars simply don’t write much about Marx or Marxism, despite being treated like his ideological puppets.

Nevertheless, there is a sense in which contestation with Marxism in the arena of law was formative in the development of Critical Race Theory. But in order to properly tell this story, and hopefully answer our question in the process, it is first necessary to understand how Critical Legal Studies (CLS) related to Marxism; for, as we’ve discussed elsewhere, Critical Race Theory might best be understood as a “spin-off” of CLS, having been distinguished as an unique movement by its alignment and misalignment therewith. In the words of Kimberlé Crenshaw,

Continue reading

Is Critical Race Theory Racist?

John Carlos and Tommie Smith

Is Critical Race Theory (CRT) itself racist?

I’ve heard this about CRT often lately. But quite clearly, visibly, and overtly, CRT scholars reject the “myth of inferior peoples” (Dr. King’s description of racism); that is, CRT rejects the claim that races can relate as superior or inferior, whether according to body, mind, morals, culture, or behaviors, and therefore even current social and economic maldistributions are not primarily attributable to supposed racial difference. According to CRT founders Mari Matsuda, Charles Lawrence, Richard Delgado, and Kimberlé Crenshaw,

as critical race theorists we adopt a stance that presumes that racism has contributed to all contemporary manifestations of group advantage and disadvantage along racial lines, including differences in income, imprisonment, health, housing, education, political representation, and military service. Our history calls for this presumption. (Words That Wound, p. 2)

And, according to CRT scholars, every group is capable of sharing in and participating in this racism, though certainly not in the same way or to the same degree:

Americans share a common historical and cultural heritage in which racism has played and still plays a dominant role. Because of this shared experience, we also inevitably share many ideas, attitudes, and beliefs that attach significance to an individual’s race and induce negative feelings and opinions about nonwhites. To the extent that this cultural belief system has influenced all of us, we are all racists. At the same time, most of us are unaware of our racism. We do not recognize the ways in which our cultural experience has influenced our beliefs about race or the occasions on which those beliefs affect our actions. (Charles Lawrence III, “The Id, the Ego, and Equal Protection,” p. 322)

Continue reading

A Brief Pedagogical Presentation of the “Tenets” of Critical Race Theory

CT painting

When we presented the tenets—or, as I prefer, “commonplaces”—of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in, “What is Critical Race Theory? An Introduction to the Movement and its Ideas (With Further Reading)” (see section 16), I closely followed the order given by Mari Matsuda, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Charles Lawrence III, and Richard Delgado as found in Words That Wound. Here I would like to rearrange these same commonplaces in a way that suggests a logical development of the central ideas of CRT, somewhat in contrast to my previous presentations based more on the historical development of the movement. While it does leave the enterprise looking woefully anemic, I nevertheless believe it is a helpful path for the more analytic among us to grasp some of CRT’s basic commitments.

Continue reading